Warm Weather Means Increased Parasite Danger for Dogs

Among these six parasites, heartworms are the most dreaded. “Heartworm disease is now found in every state in the U.S., and it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to spread the disease to your pet,” notes Dr. Stephen Jones, veterinarian and president of the American Heartworm Society. “Unfortunately, there are still millions of pet owners who don’t give their pets heartworm preventatives, and we estimate there are one million pets that have this potentially deadly disease. This is a reminder to have our pets tested annually and to give heartworm prevention year round.”  

Spring has arrived and so have parasites. Warm weather draws families outdoors for gardening, hiking, camping, picnicking, and other activities. While it’s easy to see flowers blooming, parasites are virtually invisible, emerging in full force during this time, but remaining a year-round threat.  

Here’s what every dog owner needs to know about these six parasites:

1) Heartworms: Life-threatening, these worms are transmitted by mosquitoes that have bitten an infected dog. Heartworms can grow as long as a foot within a dog’s heart and lungs. If left untreated, heartworms can live for years in dogs and build to several hundred worms, causing organ damage, pain, and death. Foxes, coyotes, wolves and even sea lions also can have heartworm disease and be reservoirs.

2) Hookworms: Hookworm eggs are deposited in the soil from the feces of an infected pet. Larvae (young hookworms) that hatch from hookworm eggs live in the soil and can infect dogs simply through contact and penetration of the pads of a dog’s feet and through dogs eating them when they ingest dirt. Hookworms attach to the intestinal lining where they feed on blood. In young or weak animals, hookworms can cause sudden collapse and even death.

3) Roundworms: Roundworms are the most common worms found in dogs. Roundworms can be passed from a mother dog to her puppy through her milk. They also can be transmitted when dogs eats larvated eggs from the environment or ingest the tissue of a mouse or another small mammal with larvae present. Dogs with roundworms may have no symptoms, or they may have diarrhea, vomiting, or coughing if the roundworms travel to the lungs.

4) Whipworms: Shaped like whips, these small, thin worms live in the cecum, which is inside your dog’s body where the small intestine and large intestine meet. Whipworms can cause anemia and bloody diarrhea, and severe infections can even cause death. Difficult to diagnose, whipworms are transmitted from ingestion of infective eggs, generally via infected feces or soil contaminated with feces from an infected dog.

5) Tapeworms: There are several species of tapeworms that can infect dogs. Tapeworms are long flat worms that attach to the intestines and grow in segments. As the segments drop off, what appear to be grains of rice can appear in a dog’s feces, or where they live and sleep. Tapeworms typically don’t cause any obvious symptoms in dogs, but most people don’t want their dogs infected.

6) Fleas: By the time one flea reveals itself on a dog, there is probably already a flea infestation in the home. That means immature fleas, eggs, larvae, and pupae are living in bedding, carpets, furniture – even between floorboards of hardwood flooring. Adult fleas on a pet are just the tip of the iceberg, as all the other flea stages live in the environment. To control fleas, you must stop them from reproducing.

To learn more about these and other parasites, visit Pets and Parasites.

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